Tag Archives: Agriculture

Farm Girl Problem/Perk # 4 My nails pretty much always look like crap.

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so.. umm... this is my life.

so.. umm… this is my life.

My hands are strong, callused, and rough to say the least. I’m not ashamed of them. Their strength allows me to do many things that many women can’t or won’t do. My hands have pulled unborn lambs/goats/calves from the womb into the world. They have moved countless hay bales. Carried thousands of joints of hand line. Pounded posts into the hard earth and completed countless other tasks. Hands are amazing to say the least. Think about all the things you can’t do without your hands… yeah the list is practically endless.

Here is the catch 22 for women in agriculture…

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This is no joke. At least half of the things that I do while working on the farm or ranch involve getting dirty. I don’t shy away from getting dirty. Though there are times that I really want to have pretty nails like those awesome ones on Pinterest. Yes there is yet another unattainable standard for women. Its unfortunate. You can’t have beautiful perfectly polished nails if your hands are constantly dirty.  In all seriousness perk/problem it really just depends on the day, where I’m going, and what I’m doing.

 

Farm girl problem #3 Granny ewe’s

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Whats a granny ewe you ask? Did you like how I tossed ewe and you in the same sentence…. bet that was a little confusing for a minute. Anyways a granny as we call them are ewe’s that may or may not have lambed that decides to claim or STEAL someone else’s lamb(s). Nearly every rancher has a love/hate relationship with the granny. They are so darn convenient when you have a bum lamb… but you hate when they take others lambs without being promoted to momma status. Most of the flocks at the university have been around a while and all of the grannies in each have been identified.

We recently acquired thirty new crossbreed ewes for a research project starting this fall. My boss being the economical man that he is wouldn’t let them sit idle and burn hay for nine months before the project started… so we bred the ewes for replacement lambs. Now I liked this idea! We get replacements, the ewes produce a few others to sell, and we get the chance to find out what kind of mothers they are before we implant Zillion dollar clones into them. (zillion is an exaggeration).

Fast forward to five months or so later and we are discovering exactly what kind of mommas we have on our hands. Many of the ewes are great they follow you in the barn happily, are attentive mothers, and only one has come up with a bad bag. (meaning she has no milk) Until last night, when I got in a no joke “fight” with a ewe that had already lambed because she stole another ewes lamb. She tried to eat me when I picked the little guy up. I swatted at her, this typically will deter most from attempting push their way back into the equation. In her case it seemed to fuel her need to get the lamb back. We shared words… her in the form of blaa’s and grunts.. I in the form of curse words. Until I could escape the pen with the rightful mother and both of her lambs. Foolishly I thought that the worst of it was over….

Once in the barn with the new mother and her lambs in their own private pen I discovered the worst. Since the granny had claimed and fed the lamb it smelled like her and the “real” mom was rejecting her lamb. When I say rejecting I mean she was stomping her lamb into the ground and pushing it away from its sibling. In a situation like this there are a few things you can do. 1) take the rejected lamb away and let it be a bummer 2) attempt to trick the mom into thinking she just gave birth to a new lamb or 3) drag the granny inside and make her take care of the rejected lamb. I chose to go with option number two.  I placed the mothers head into the head stall so that she couldn’t get to the lamb and then proceeded to rub it against its sibling and rub it with after birth. Once momma was released she licked down the lamb and ate the placenta off of it. (yes sheep started the trend long before Kim K) She let the lamb nurse and I went home.

This morning when I arrived at the barn the mom had decided to reject the lamb again. Why is beyond me because she was pretty lovey dovey with it before I left the night before. It’s one of the most frustrating/ hard to understand things when a mother does this. None of us like to take care of bummer lambs; when you have 450+ sheep and goats to take care of its difficult to justify having a bum lamb to add to the list. Dave decided that we should see if the granny ewe would take the lamb back. She only had one lamb to begin with and was more than capable of feeding two lambs. When we brought her into the barn she instantly pushed her way to the abandoned newborn. She now is the happy mother of not one but two lambs.

Whats the moral of the story? Its that granny sheep are a giant pain in my butt… I personally dislike them. I appreciate that she stepped up to take care of the lamb. But we wouldn’t need her to if she would have just mined her own business to begin with!

Aside

I have this really great friend, Alyssa, who gave me a book a while back that she wanted me to read. It’s by Howard G. Buffet, titled Forty Chances Finding Hope in a Hungry World. To be honest I wasn’t fully prepared for what I found within its pages… I thought I knew a little bit about the world hunger crisis and its effects on agriculture… I know nothing. Well not exactly, what I know is like a drop in the ocean when we compare it to the size and scale of the issue at hand. (I haven’t even finished the book yet.)

Hunger. What is it to us? Most of us, if we can afford the luxury of reading a blog can’t imagine hunger as anything more than a minor nuisance between meals. I have never known what hunger truly feels like, I was blessed to be born into a food secure family. My wonderful parents always made sure that there was food on the table and enough money left over to cover our other expenses. Unfortunately that is not the case for all the children born in this world or even this country. How many people in this country do you think are food insecure? Well in 2011 the nations overall food insecurity rate was 16.4 %. Let me put that into simpler terms over 50 Million people were food insecure that year. Child food insecurity is much worse at 22.4% of children, thats a little over 16 million children in the US that went hungry. 19% of them were likely ineligible for government assistance because they lived just above the poverty level. Let that sink in for a minute…Thats in the land of the free, home of the brave ladies and gentlemen! Can you imagine what global hunger must be like if those are the statistics for our own dear country? Now take your imagination and times it by ten… its that bad if not worse.

I spend my Friday nights weighing lambs, tagging, docking tails, and reading.

I spend my Friday nights weighing lambs, tagging, docking tails, and reading.

I’m not trying to make you feel like you should curl up in the fetal position and cry for the rest of the day, I would much rather you go pick up a copy of Forty Chances yourself. Its going to make you think, cry (unless your heartless), but most of all I hope that this book will make you think about agriculture and global food production. Its a must read for everyone, not just farmers/ranchers or those with an agricultural interest, I mean everyone. I believe that every man/woman has a vested interest in agriculture and global food production. We all need to eat, therefore we all have to care about food production.

Farmers/ranchers/agriculturalists are however, the people that I must implore to read this book. I know that many of you barley have time to keep up with the farm and family; but you can always find a few minutes for a good read. We carry the weight of feeding the world on our shoulders, no pressure. (except there is) We already know that we have to feed 9 billion people by 2050, but we can’t even feed everyone today. Which is only a half truth because globally we produce enough food to fill every man, woman, and child’s needs. Both nutritionally and calorically. What?? Yes, we can feed everyone. ( yeah I nearly fell over when I read that too) Why don’t we? Mostly because people are jerks and thats my nice way of putting it. Food+ hungry people= power. An equation that many war lords are all to aware of. We have power too. Power in our seed genetics, technology, knowledge.

Howard really does have a way about conveying his knowledge of agriculture and global food insecurity that will change the way you think about food.

Nights at the barn

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Most people hate giving up their night to go to work, I however love it. But I do have my dream college job… I won’t be doing it forever. To me there has always been something so incredibly tranquil about being in a barn at night with the animals, especially when their are babies involved! I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on what exactly makes it so great. It’s hard to describe the peacefulness that I find when I go in to feed and check on the mama’s. Maybe its the way my coffee tastes in the cool night or the way that the mama’s snuggle up with their lambs. It could be the smell of milk replacer and the way that the bummed lambs slurp it all down. I think its all of these things and a little something extra that you can’t describe. Whatever that special something is this picture captures all of it perfectly. This little guy, only a few hours old, lounges under the feed bucket while his mamma happily munches on her feed. The barn was quiet and the moment was just to perfect. A midst all the craziness that is lambing season there are a few perfect moments like this one that remind me why I love the chaos.

Lamb-ageddon

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Do you like my play on the apocalyptic idea of armageddon? Lamb-ageddon is when you have a huge wave of lambs being born; typically on a weekend, late at night, in the middle of a snowstorm/rain/or any other crappy weather. You never have enough jugs (pens) to put the ewes and their lambs in because 15-20 ewes will lamb in 48 hours. Yeah just about every rancher has at least one massive wave of births in a short period of time during their lambing/calving season. It happens with most species of livestock and some other wild animals. For example Wildebeest will commonly cycle so that all of their calves are born in a three week period after the rains come. Why do they do this? Because if they all give birth at once the predators will be overwhelmed and won’t be able to eat as many of the babies. Why do sheep do this? Same reason… except I believe that they do it to overwhelm us! Most livestock animals are seasonally polyestrous which means that they come into heat only one time a year and they generally cycle together, this allows them to have all their babies pretty much at once. Evolutionarily and genetically this is what our animals are programed to do. We as ranchers prepare for this as much as possible.

Now I know that our lamb-ageddon is coming; we have only had one or two ewes lamb a day for the past week. That would be about average if we didn’t have 40 more ewes in the teaching flock that are due to lamb in the next 5 days…. do the math… its not going to be good. On top of the 40 that haven’t lambed we also have another 90 ewes in the Callipyge project due to start lambing on Monday. How am I going to prepare for this? Coffee, lots and lots of coffee. Maybe a little bit of red bull. To be honest there isn’t a whole lot that you can do to prepare… you keep the barn clean, extra feed on hand, and tackle the population explosion head on.

I live for lamb-ageddon. If there is one thing that I am very good at its managing the chaos that emerges when animals are giving birth. I’m the kind of person that thrives in the midst of chaos… it is one of my strong suit… and let me tell you lambing is complete and udder insanity!! Jugs need to be cleaned, lambs tagged, bum lambs fed, ewes fed, and there is always the occasional case of mastitis. Mastitis for those of you that don’t know is an infection of the mammary glands; it can be quite painful and requires antibiotics. Where was I? oh yes, I’m a rockstar at being a sheep birthing coach/nurse/doctor. So lamb-agedon may be exceptionally stressful, cause me to loose a week of sleep, and push me to my limits but I can handle it.

FFA Week!!! :)

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In case no one has mentioned it yet it’s National FFA Week!!!! Which is in-fact my favorite week of the year.  Being a member of the FFA Organization was by far one of the greatest experiences of my short life (I’m only 21). For those of you that may not know that much about the National FFA Organization let me give you a quick crash course.

The FFA was established in 1928 in Virginia. Its purpose was to educate young men about agriculture and leadership, while giving them the tools that they need to become successful in their future careers. The FFA now allows girls to join, obviously I’m not a boy! Each Agriculture program at most schools in the U.S. has an FFA chapter, which is part of a state association, which in turn is a part of the national organization. Agricultural education in the classroom is an important component of FFA but there are also two other components that cannot be overlooked. The SAE is a members Supervised Agricultural Experience, which is essentially like a science fair project, show lamb, or agriculture work experience. My SAE while I was in FFA was raising and showing club lambs as well as raising Red Angus cattle. In addition to learning in the classroom and having an SAE FFA members can compete in CDE’s. CDE’s are Career Development Events that are designed to let students learn about an aspect of agriculture then compete in a contest to test their knowledge. There are twenty-five CDE’s that students can participate in on the chapter, state, and national level. As a student I competed in Parliamentary Procedure, Livestock, Poultry, Dairy Foods, and a couple of other events. I also ran for chapter and state officer positions which is where many students get leadership experience. I also traveled to leadership conferences where I learned a lot about myself and how to work with other people. This is a super brief overview of the FFA if you have more questions please contact me (questions page) or visit the National FFA web page http://ffa.org

We were supposed to be holding an officer meeting…. whoops…

Anyways I love FFA, like really love it. This is me,well the brunette is me, the other foxy lady is my friend Joslyn (she’s pretty great).  I spent much of my time in high school doing things just like this. What is this you ask? Well its swing dancing in the hallway of the school of course! Actually I did a whole ton of other really important things. Like traveling to National Convention to go to workshops and watch sessions. ( I went as an alternate on a team once but it doesn’t really count) For any of you that may one day have the opportunity to travel to and participate in Convention, go, like drop everything and run. Its beyond amazing, I can’t even put into words how it feels to see 55000+ members all in one place wearing those blue corduroy jackets!

National Convention

Josslynn, me, Jadon, Joslyn at the 83d National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Convention is a life changing experience for almost all FFA members. It gives students the chance to join together and share their passion for agriculture. It was where I learned that map quest is a joke, that I really hate eating at Bob Evans, and that Agriculture is as diverse as the FFA members I met along the way.  I watched others live out their dreams of winning National CDE’s and still others receive their SAE awards. It was where I first felt the need to work towards my American FFA Degree, which is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a member. There is also a huge career show, a college recruitment area, and shopping mall for FFA members. I truly wish that more members had the opportunity to go, to see, to learn, to feel what convention is all about.

My main passion with FFA was raising and showing sheep. I had 20 ewes and about 30 lambs at any given time and thoroughly enjoyed working with them on a daily basis. The best thing about agriculture and FFA is that you children will learn more about the value of life and their own morals when they are involved in some form of agriculture. When I step back and look at all the schooling I have had in my short life the most important part of my education was gained while working on the farm. You can’t just walk away from 25 ewes when you are tired, cold, and hungry because chances are they are in the same boat as you but they can’t do anything about it. I knew that I could take the short, quick, easy way of doing things and deal with the problems that arose because of it (sick animals, wild lambs come show time, and broken fencing) or I could do things right the first time and not have to worry so much about the repercussions of bad choices. Your animals depend on you to take care of them, make sure their needs are met, and to look out for their health. Its your responsibility as a producer to make sure that you do right by them. Being in an Ag. class gave me the the knowledge but working with the animals ignited my passion.

I always love having babies!

When I sold my last show lamb I decided to donate the check to my friends family, her father had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

state proficiency

This was me when I won a state proficiency award for sheep production.

The hardest part of being a member was it ending, knowing that when I took off my blue jacket that I would never put it on again. FFA had been (and continues to be) such a large part of my life but, after I took it off for the last time I knew that it would all change. I had done or tried nearly everything that I could in my blue jacket…

  • I traveled across the country to Washington D.C. where I made new friends and was shoved outside of my comfort zone on a hourly basis. (the metro in D.C. is pretty stressful)
  • I learned so much about myself and the person that I wanted to become
  • I showed countless animals
  • I lost at least a thousand hours of sleep in my jacket (running through the airport, riding a bus, or running contests)
  • I competed against other members
  • I built my identity around my FFA Jacket
  • I learned how to work with people that I didn’t always like to be around
  • I helped others “find themselves”
  • I was a leader
  • I ran for state office (twice)
  • I met one of my best friends
  • I received my American FFA Degree

The last thing on the list, my American Degree, was one of my favorite FFA experiences. I had worked for years to meet the requirements needed to receive the degree. Then spend a day or so figuring out and filling out the application. Finally traveled to Indianapolis with my chapter and mother to walk across the stage and get my degree. Convention which usually seemed like a couple of days seemed to fly by in a blur. (its actually about five days long) I felt bittersweet when the day came, as I sat in my seat at the session it hit me… hard, I would never wear my FFA jacket again after that day. My perspective shifted, I can’t really explain it I was different but not different at the same time. I knew that my role had changed I would no longer be a member in the way I had been in the past I would now become an Alumni. My new role would be to help encourage others to join FFA, to reach for their goals, to teach people how to lead. I thought about that and a hundred other things the whole time the session was going on and when it came time for the ceremony to start I had to snap out of it. We ( I use the term loosely it was me and about 1000 other members) had to get up line up in order and prepare to walk across the stage and shake the national officers hand and receive our degree. In the line I chatted with other members, told the students running the ceremony back stage how to say my name, and took a photo. Finally I walked up the stairs onto the stage and it happened they said my name right!!! Only people with unique names can understand how awesome it is when someone says your name right. I was handed my degree, shook hands, grinned from ear to ear and walked off stage onto cloud nine. The next hour of celebrating with my friends that had also received their degrees completely distracted me from the fact that my last day with my jacket was moving way fast.

Getting my American FFA Degree

All to soon it was time to go back to the hotel, change, and head to the airport… Im going to warn you I had a seriously childish moment where I cried, mind you I had been crying all day already. I reluctantly took my official dress off and packed everything into my suitcase, well almost, my jacket rode home with me.

My Blue Jacket

It’s strange how an article of clothing can mean so much… how just the sight of one brings on a flood of memories. Some bad, some good, but all are precious. I am eternally grateful for the time that I spent wearing my jacket and being a FFA member. Thank you to my Advisor, for taking a weird/silly/stubborn girl and pushing her to be a better person. Thank you to the countless others that make FFA the great organization that it is today. Happy FFA Week my friends!

Lambing Season

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Lambing Season

Well ladies and gentlemen it has begun, Lambing season, my most loved/hated part of the year. One of the Universities newly purchased Merino ewes gave birth yesterday morning (I know I’m a day late and a dollar short) outside in our balmy 17 degree weather. The lambs weren’t outside long enough to dry off and quickly adjusted to life with a heat lamp.Being born at Utah State University Sheep and Goat Unit has its perks, like the Aggie Blue coats that keep them warm!